How to eat right when you eat out

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If you want to eat lean and clean, you've got to learn how to order in restaurants especially fast-food places like Arby's, Burger King and Jack in the Box, where the portions are big and the fat grams overwhelming.

So how do you know what to order? Say you're at Applebee's. Are you better off with the low-fat Asian chicken salad or the low-fat veggie quesadilla? At Olive Garden, if you're counting calories, should you go for shrimp primavera or the penne arrabbiata? So many choices, so little information.

That's where "The Low-Fat Fast Food Guide" comes in handy. This Palm Pilot-size $3.99 paperback, by Jamie Pope and Martin Katahn (W.W. Norton and Co., N.Y.), is a detailed breakdown of the most popular food items at the most popular chain restaurants, listing fat, calories, fiber, sodium and more.

The guide also has some general principles to keep in mind when you order; they're worth repeating and remembering:

Order ALL salad dressings on the side, even low-fat versions. Use sparingly.

Avoid menu items with descriptions that include the words "parmigiana," "flaky," "crispy," "breaded" and "alfredo."

Avoid fried foods and don't be fooled by "fried in 100 percent vegetable oil." Frying can triple the fat and calories in foods. Choose baked, broiled or grilled menu items.

Always ask them to hold the mayo when you order. Mayonnaise has 11 grams of fat per tablespoon! Use mustard, salsa, ketchup or low-fat dressing instead.

Cancel the cheese. Most cheese have 10 grams of fat per ounce, so keep it off your sandwiches and salads; if a food item has a cheese sauce on it, don't order it.

Remember: Food is not the enemy. You can learn to eat and order anywhere, even at fast-food places, if you take a few minutes to learn about healthy choices.

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